STATEMENT BY THE ALL PEOPLES CONGRESS (APC) NATIONAL SECRETARIAT ON THE AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT ON EBOLA FUNDS
The All Peoples Congress (APC), being the current ruling party in Sierra Leone, is impressed at the way the accountability structures in the country have been strengthened and capacitated since the ascendancy to the presidency of President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Before 2007, there was hardly any known serious report by the Auditor- General, and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was merely a nominal organ that had no teeth. When the then ACC Commissioner Val Collier tried to wade into the corrupt practices of some officials of the then Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), he was hounded out of office – even as his predecessor British-born Commissioner had to resign his post for similar reasons.
AMBASSADOR OSMAN YANSANEH
When President Koroma came to power, he amended the ACC Act to give it prosecutorial powers to avoid any apparent political interference with having to consult with the Attorney General’s Office. The first appointed Commissioner, Abdul Tejan Cole, only resigned when he got an international job for reasons of better pay. In President Koroma’s quest to give the commission the independence it deserves, and in response to the former Commissioner’s concerns, the salary of the successor commissioner, Joseph F. Kamara, was substantially increased.
Sierra Leoneans, both at home and abroad, together with international and local observers, are aware of the high-profile prosecutions and in some cases convictions that have been carried out by the ACC and the courts, some of which included government ministers – a new development in the political landscape of the country.
On the current issue of the Auditor-General’s report on the use or misuse of funds meant for the fight against the outrageous Ebola disease, the All Peoples Congress would only see this as part of the transparency and accountability posture of the government which has given a free hand to the work of the Auditor General’s office.
Indeed, it would be recalled that President Koroma has been very forthright in his continuous warning against misappropriation of Ebola funds, which he described as “blood money” when addressing religious leaders, cultural groups, traditional healers and tribal heads in 2014 in Freetown. On his New Year’s Day speech 2015, the President had this to say: “Fellow Sierra Leoneans…There are some people, from all regions, professions, and age groups, who want to use this moment to make money, to score political points, or to cause mischief and disaffection in the land. We must resist them. There are people who don’t work but want to hide under the cover of those who work to get paid; we must expose them. There are people who are not involved in raising awareness about the disease, but who are raising funds to siphon unto selfish ends, we must bring these shameless crooks to book. Government agencies stand instructed to keep record of all Ebola related transactions for accountability now and a more thorough auditing of the process after we defeat this virus. We expect all international agencies, NGOs and Civil Society Organizations who have received the majority of funds to fight Ebola to have similar records for a thorough accounting of their actions….”: Even when he was recently announcing the ease of inter-district travel restrictions on 22nd January 2015, President Koroma reiterated his anti-Ebola-funds-misuse stance when he said, “Any persons found to have falsified lists or taken advantage of the system will be investigated. We will not let the heroic works of our burial teams, swabbers, doctors, nurses, lab technicians, surveillance officers and others be tainted by those wishing to take advantage of the situation for their own personal gain…”
Therefore, the State House Press release on Friday 13th February 2015 which has promised that the full force of the law will be applied on those that have defrauded the state as a response to the Auditor-General’s report does not come as a surprise as it underlines the government’s consistent anti-corruption drive.
Even as we applaud government’s efforts, the All Peoples Congress wishes to urge further that a travel ban be slammed on all those named in the audit report, either as individuals or civil society or MDAs, until a logical conclusion is reached into the matter. Specifically, finance officials at the Ministry of Finance, the National Ebola Response Centre, and the Ministry of Health should be affected by this moratorium. Furthermore, all signatories to Ebola accounts must not be allowed to travel. The All Peoples Congress believes that such an action will prevent any future embarrassment to the government in case any defaulter would want to sneak out of the country before the investigations are concluded.
The APC also appeals to Parliament to address the Auditor-General’s report as a matter of urgency in the public interest.
Long live the APC!
Long live Sierra Leone!
Amb. Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh
National Secretary General – APC